Communities such as Gidan Jaja and others in Zurmi Local Government Area of Zamfara State, and many others in Jibia Local Government Area in Katsina State are held under siege by a notorious bandits’ leader called Dankarami (Small).
He rules over the nearby Jaja Forest from where he terrorises villagers.
He is among many other bandits’ leaders terrorising communities in Zamfara and neighbouring states at a time when key leaders in the state appear to be more concerned about politics and the race for 2023.
A former chairman of Nigerian Bar Association in Zamfara state, Bello Galadi, said rural communities especially in Zamfara are virtually not under government control, lamenting that they are more concerned about political influence instead of forming a strong force to liberate their people.
Dankarami and his shenanigans
Dankarami also called Gwaska, is still in his early 30s commands a group of well-armed men numbering not less than 500, according to locals. His boys are notoriously known as “Yan Shabakwai” or the “teenagers” because they are mostly young and are responsible for most of the abductions, cattle rustling and series of deadly raids on dozens of communities in that axis, a resident familiar with Dankarami’s background and operations told Daily Trust.
A video clip released on social media platforms recently gave a rare glimpse into the looks of Dankarami and his operations. He was seen holding meetings with community leaders, including police officers, where he was boasting about his prowess and successes, including sacking villages and killing security operatives.
Credible sources said Dankarami was born in a settlement called Lambar Gabas in Rukudawa district of Zurmi Local Government Area, where he now owns a mansion consisting of more than 38 rooms, a mosque and Islamiyya school.
His settlement is situated not more than two kilometres east of Rukudawa, a farming community that has suffered series of deadly assaults by armed bandits for more than a decade.
“His residence is heavily fortified by armed men and has become a rendezvous for herders and all sorts of criminals. In fact no one can risk going there unless if you are one of their apologists,” the source who craved anonymity for fear of attack told one of our reporters.
“Dankarami does not normally leave his settlement to carry out attacks; he is always at the comfort of his house. However, he gives nods for attacks on communities at will. All sorts of assault weapons could be found with him,” the source said.
The bandits’ leader is said to be living with his father called Buda and maternal grandfather identified as Maiyara Dandela. Dankarami’s uncle called Kundu, another notorious bandits’ leader was killed in a gang war sometimes back.
“He became notorious in armed banditry with the full support of his father. But he does not see eye to eye with his maternal grandfather following the latter’s effort to convince him to shun his ugly business.
“His boys are spread across different camps in the forest straddling Zurmi and Birnin Magaji local governments in Zamfara State and Jibia Local Government in the neighbouring Katsina State are responsible for the recent attack on Dauran community in Zurmi Local Council in which more than 100 cows and Sallah rams were carted away,” the source said.
While Dankarami and his father remain mostly at home, other family members are said to be moving freely, including his mother who reportedly attends the market almost every Sunday in Zurmi town.
Averse to peace
Despite dialogue offers by the past and current administrations in Zamfara State, Dankarami is not known to have participated in any of those peace meetings summoned by state authorities in person. A few times he sent representatives.
In the video in circulation, Dankarami gave reasons for turning back on peace. He said, “When we came back home, I called the emir that was removed, who is now in Gusau, I told him that I would come back so that we could live in peace. I came home to live peacefully with my parents and if anything happens anywhere I am not involved, and if I betray him or break our promise, he should call my parents and inform them.
“But he vowed that over his dead body for him to live alongside a bandit. Since then I switched off my phone and removed the SIM card. I have not used the phone again. I only use the phones of my boys to make calls,” he said.
Up till now, many people are appalled as to why authorities could not confront him.
A resident of Gusau, Mahe Abdulsalam, said, “The most shocking part of the video was where he said he laid siege to soldiers, killed them and burnt their vehicles.
“He said this in front of some police operatives, government officials and traditional rulers. This is sad…He looks like an emperor in front of them,” he said.
More recently, it was gathered that Dankarami had rebuffed peace moves initiated by Kaduna-based cleric Sheikh Ahmed Gumi.
Sources said that Dankarami became much more notorious after the killing of his uncle, Kundu. It was the time he took over the leadership of the camps and became more ruthless.
“At the onset of this year’s cropping season, a herd consisting of about 1,000 cows and 5,000 sheep settled at the deposed Emir of Zurmi farm to provide farm manure for the farm. This is a rough estimate of his cows and sheep I am giving you. But, I swear by Almighty Allah they are more than that and they are being herded by one of his selected boys.
“There was a time some of his boys were intercepted and summarily executed by some angry residents in Zurmi town. Dankarami vowed to fight back by attacking Zurmi town. His threat put the residents on edge.
“The deposed Emir of Zurmi had to leave his palace and go to a place inside the forest to beg the Dankarami and his parents not to avenge the attack.
“The dethroned emir had to appeal to Dankarami’s father not to make their threat real. There was a serious tension at that time as everyone knew that that armed criminals could carry out the daring attack on the town.”
Daily Trust gathered that in the past, his boys used to ride their motorbikes to Zurmi, especially on market days, not until when soldiers stationed in the town started rounding them off whenever they were sighted.
“There is usually an insignia on their motorbikes that differentiates them with other motorbike riders. They attached one locally made green emblem at the motorbikes’ mudguards which stands them out,” he added.
Some residents in the axis expressed reservations on the willingness to eliminate their tormentor saying that since the notorious criminal is not an incorporeal being why the hesitation to take him out.
“It is sad that authorities allowed a criminal to lord himself over innocent residents when the intelligence community knows his abode,” a resident identified as Aminu Amanda, said.
“Why will they allow him to continue to wreak havoc on hapless communities? Something urgent must be done to tame him,” he suggested.
Another resident, Isah Aliyu said the authorities should take steps to seize his herd of cattle because the cows are mostly those stolen from the traumatized communities.
“For now, no one can own or rear cows in our communities; herding has become difficult unless if you are part of the organized crime. If the cows are confiscated, I am sure residents would be able to identify their stolen animals,” he said.
Zamfara’s many lows
Zamfara is among the least developed states in the country, ranking close to the bottom in most key indices despite its vast fertile land and huge minerals deposits.
According to Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), the state has large deposits of solid minerals (gold) with 30 per cent of cultivable land and tourist attractions.
The state, according to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its Internally Generated Revenue at the first half of 2020, ranked 20th in the country with an IGR of N7,088,990,526.80.
NBS also puts the state’s total debt as of the first quarter of 2021 at N96,980,834,485.22 with total allocation from the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) for 2020 at N41,446,503,230.12
Presidential Enabling Business Environmental Council (PEBEC), a government agency set up to remove bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria ranks the state very low in its ease of doing business data.
The agency is chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. It recently published its subnational survey methodology framework on determining states with the highest ease of doing matrixes which led to jubilation in some states but not Zamfara.
The PEBEC-NEC (National Economic Council) Technical Working Group in the ease of the doing business report put the state at the 37th position in the ease of doing ranking. The indicators used to arrive at the rankings included infrastructure and security, transparency and access to information, regulatory environment and skills workforce readiness.
In terms of education, the state was among the states with the least percentage of candidates that had five credits and above including Mathematics and English with 11.95 per cent at the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) conducted in 2018.